Subject: Reform's a hard sell for Indonesia's army
Monday, August 18, 2008
Reform's a hard sell for Indonesia's army
John McBeth, Senior Writer
LOST in the recriminations over the Commission of Truth and Friendship's
(CTF) report on the bloody events surrounding Timor Leste's vote for
independence is a singular recommendation to implement a major shift in
the culture of the Indonesian
Armed Forces (TNI).
In keeping with language in the 2002 Defence Law, the commission calls
for the TNI to drop its time-honoured concept of total people's defence
and replace it with a conventional reserve element that, when activated,
will become part of the military's formal
chain of command.
Enshrined in the previous 1982 Defence Law, and underpinned by the 1945
current doctrine allows for the creation and arming of the same
military- backed militias that were responsible for much of the
destruction and bloodshed in Timor Leste nine years ago.
A draft Defence Reserve Component Bill, drawn up in 2006 and still
waiting to be tabled in
Parliament, envisages the creation of a
volunteer reserve force
with professional training, clear authority, rights and
The size of the force is not mentioned in the legislation, but it is
believed the TNI plans to eventually recruit about 150,000 reservists,
aged between 18 and 58, who would undergo about three months of training
and serve for five years.
One vague provision allows for 'natural resources, manufacturing
resources, national structures and infrastructure' to be utilised in
support of the reserve, presumably at a time of national mobilisation.
The Bill stipulates that the costs of the reserve force should be borne
by the national budget, with each provincial government providing a
Retired general Agus Widjoyo, a reform-minded member of the CTF, sees
the provision and other recommendations in the 356-page report as
'another milestone in the Indonesian transition, symbolising a shift
from authoritarian values to open democratic values'.
But while the document contains what Gen Widjoyo calls 'substantial new
packaging', the commission's non-prosecutorial mandate meant it was
never going to satisfy anyone - least of all the relatives of the 1,500
people who died at the hands of the Indonesian-backed militiamen.
In fact, in issuing what amounted to an apology for what happened in its
former territory - the first time it has acknowledged culpability - the
Indonesian government now faces renewed pressure to follow up with
That won't happen, of course. As farcical and unconvincing as the
process was, the administration can point to the ad hoc trials that led
to the acquittal of all 20 officers and civilians accused of inciting
Despite saying sorry, even
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is understood to have been
unhappy over some of the report's conclusions - in particular where it
found that Indonesian soldiers were guilty of gross
human rights abuses.
There is no question the Timorese bent over backwards. Even in the joint
statement, they replaced 'apology', which appeared in the original
Indonesian version, with the softer 'regret' that Dr Yudhoyono used.
Although the report didn't mention names,
continue to be criticised for failing to successfully prosecute any one
and for a culture of impunity that has ignored other abuses in Papua,
Aceh and Jakarta over the years.
The Timor Leste events may have occurred after former president
Suharto's downfall, but clearly not enough time had elapsed from the
repressive New Order era for the military to have changed its culture to
any appreciable degree.
The TNI says it should instead be judged on the strides it has made
since then, separating itself from mainstream political life,
dramatically improving its
human rights record and progressively edging out of business
But it still resists the concept of civilian supremacy, pointing by way
of justification to the corruption and abuse of power that exist among
politicians and the way they persist in trying to draw the military into
'Civilians still try to spoil the TNI,' notes Gen Widjoyo, who also
faults the media for asking senior officers provocative political
questions. 'Defending the military is an instinctive thing among
politicians. But there's no reason for putting it on a pedestal.'
Former armed forces chief General Wiranto has always refused to accept
for the 1999 rampage, arguing that he was carrying out a state mission -
even if it was not sanctioned by the civilian leadership.
Gen Widjoyo calls it a 'grey area', with the TNI's 'dual function'
doctrine as a military as well as a socio-political force allowing it to
effectively trump the authority of then-president B.J. Habibie's
But if the doctrine is now a thing of the past, the same vacuum of
authority was illustrated only two years ago when the
navy chief of staff
warned of war if Malaysia
continued to lay claim to East Kalimantan's offshore Ambalat oil
Reformers also want to see the police taken away from presidential
control - it has replaced the military as a centralised institution -
and placed under the authority of provincial governors and district
'There is still an authoritarian mindset, based on the assumption that
anything carried out as a state mission has to be protected,' says Gen
Widjoyo. 'In that mindset there is always a sharp dividing line between
who is the enemy and who are the friendly forces.
'There are those who remain in that mindset, but we are in a time of
transition. That's why the commission is trying to move from old
arrangements to the building of new arrangements.
'There has to be a new way to look at nationalism and patriotism.'
Joyo Indonesia News Service
==== ========= ==== =======
Back to August Menu
World Leaders Contact List
Main Postings Menu